Traditional evaluation approaches can miss important information by failing to account for context or differences across communities. Our firm created and practiced the Community-Responsive Approach to evaluation to engage stakeholders for better data, better relationships – and more fun!
Ultimately, community members know their communities best.
Community members and stakeholders can provide critical input to evaluators in every stage of an evaluation – something The Improve Group has learned yields the most comprehensive and authentic findings.
To share our lessons learned, I created an E-Study on the importance of community engagement in evaluation. This E-Study was developed for the Hubert Project, an open-source resource for public affairs educators based at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. In the E-Study, I share our model for engaging community members in evaluation, our Community-Responsive Approach.
Rad Resource: The new E-Study, “Evaluation as Engagement,” features two past clients that are masters of working effectively in their communities. African Immigrant Services works to increase civic engagement among communities of color. Urban Roots is a Saint Paul organization that works to empower youth through nature. The learning modules in this E-Study speak to the importance of community engagement in every step of evaluation, from defining what is being evaluated to sharing results.
For Urban Roots, using a Community-Responsive Approach meant getting more in-depth, authentic answers from youth through more appropriate evaluation methods, like youth interviewing each other or storytelling. At African Immigrant Services, stakeholder involvement ensured they worked towards a community vision of success – and that the stories of a community are not filtered through the lens of someone else.
Lesson Learned: Through hundreds of evaluations over the last 17 years, The Improve Group team developed and practices a Community-Responsive Approach to ensure that the unique perspectives of all affected communities and stakeholder groups are represented in the evaluation process. By being responsive to each community’s distinct characteristics and by involving individual community stakeholders in our evaluation design, we are more likely to hear authentic experiences, concerns, and results.
We developed our Community-Responsive Approach based on what we noticed was working well, such as:
- Engaging community members as advisors
- Identifying and enlisting community experts to contribute to and lead aspects of the evaluation
- Using multiple methods of data collection and analysis
- Using a multi-phased, iterative approach that allows you to layer learning from multiple community members in each phase
The American Evaluation Association is highlighting the work of The Improve Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from staff of The Improve Group. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.